"When the cloud lingered upon the Tabernacle many days, the Children of
Israel would maintain the charge of G-d and would not journey."
(Bamidbar/Numbers 9:19) The Children of Israel possessed a Divinely
directed pillar of cloud that informed them when to pack up camp and move
on to their next destination, a location that would become known only when
the cloud stopped. Some destinations became home for as long as nineteen
years, others for as little as one night.
Ramban (1) explains that at times the cloud would tarry specifically in a
location that was unpleasing to the nation, a place from which they desired
to depart; nevertheless because of their relationship with G-d and His
indication that they should not travel, they did not. Similarly, if after a
couple days' rest they were tired and weary, they still followed the
dictates of the cloud. There were times that after one night's rest the
cloud started moving on, a physically taxing charge; or worse, after two
days at the location, when they had finally unloaded their packs with the
confidence that this stop would be extended, they would get the signal to
pack up and travel again.
Why was this strange routine necessary? Why did this have to be the forum
for G-d's Dominion to become manifest in the Jewish people?
Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler (2) responds that these exercises were actually the
training program for Divine service, a lesson that spans the generations.
Many have the faulty notion that when life becomes quiet and serene, then
we are free to serve G-d. Rather, it is only when we learn to acclimate, to
serve G-d while carrying life's heavy burdens through extreme conditions,
that we are truly equipped to accept the Torah.
The Talmud (Eruvin 65b) teaches us that the content of man is measured by
"koso, kiso, v'ka'aso" - his cup (his response when intoxicated), his
wallet (financial pressures), and his anger. The G-d conscious Jew
understands that his relationship with the Divine permeates all precincts
of life, infusing all facets of life with holiness. Yet, the moments when
he is most taxed, most pressured and most burdened are the greatest
opportunities to allow his own G-dliness to radiate. It is in these times
of greatest challenge to the strength of his character that he fortifies
his G-dly nature and propels himself to new spiritual heights.
Have a Good Shabbos!
(1) 1194-1270; acronym for Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman, Nachmanides; native of
Gerona, Spain, he was one the leading scholars of the Middle Ages and
successfully defended Judaism at the famed debate in Barcelona in 1263
(2) 1891-1954; in Michtav Me'Eliyahu, his collected writings and
discourses; from England and, later, B'nai Brak, he was one of the
outstanding personalities and thinkers of the Mussar movement